Extremists Attack Peaceful Demonstrators in Jakarta

Extremists Attack Peaceful Demonstrators in Jakarta, Indonesia; A Statement from Robert L. Salas with Information from Anand Krishna, Anand Ashram Foundation, Indonesia, a United Nations NGO

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 23 /PRNewswire/ -- On June 1, at the National Monument in the central district of Jakarta, Indonesia, an event took place that was little noticed by the world press but could have major implications for world politics and the international "War on Terror." During a peaceful rally by dozens of organizations representing people from various religions in celebration of Pancasila, the Indonesian concept of embracing all religious beliefs in their society, the crowd was attacked by a mob of some 200 club-wielding Islamic extremists. As a result of this attack, dozens of demonstrators were injured, some seriously injured. The attackers are considered to be members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), one of a growing number of extremist groups who are now resorting to violent means in their attempt to institute a radical form of Islam in the country to the exclusion of other religions.
There are some disturbing facts surrounding this violence. First, the attackers seemed to be allowed to organize themselves with their weapons in plain view of the police who had been assigned for crowd control. Second, there were only a few of the attackers who were arrested who are currently facing prosecution. In addition, two government Ministers have announced their support for some of the attackers and have called for their immediate release without further investigation. This stance stems from the fact that there was a recent joint ministerial decree by the Home Minister, the Minister of Religious Affairs, and the Attorney General which permits criminal prosecution for "spreading interpretations and activities which deviate from the principal teachings of Islam." Apparently, that decree accommodates the use of mob vigilante violence, as demonstrated by this event.

Understandably, the June 1 incident has come to the attention and the concern of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The USCIRF is an official U.S. Commission associated with the U.S. State Department and provides policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and the Congress. On June 11, the USCIRF issued a recommendation that calls on the U.S. government to urge President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reverse the ministerial decree and prosecute anyone using violence to intimidate any religious minority in Indonesia.

These recent events have major implications because Indonesia is a country of nearly 300 million people, most of whom practice the Islamic faith. It has become a prime target for Islamic extremists. If they were to gain a strong foothold in Indonesia, as they seem to be attempting, the battle against such extremists worldwide would become exponentially more difficult.

For further information, contact: Mr. Anand Krishna at ashram@anandkrishna.org in Indonesia or Mr. Robert Salas at rsalas@ojai.net in the U.S.

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